FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2021
200+ Faculty Across U.S. Launch Non-Partisan Academic Freedom Alliance
Organization will offer solidarity, legal support on free speech cases regardless of ideology
PRINCETON, NJ – Today, more than 200 college and university faculty members across the United States joined together to launch the Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA), a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to upholding the principle of free speech in academia. In addition to promoting solidarity, the AFA will provide legal support to certain faculty whose academic freedom is under attack.
Keith E. Whittington, professor of politics at Princeton and Chair of the AFA’s Academic Committee, said, “Instances of professors being disciplined or fired for protected speech are on the rise. AFA will counteract the pressure on school administrators to crack down on controversial views and will provide faculty with strength in numbers to defend their academic freedom. The AFA’s defense will not depend on a faculty member’s viewpoint, nor will it endorse the content of what they express. It will simply defend their right to expression.”
The AFA includes notable members from across the political spectrum, including Cornel West of Harvard and Robert P. George of Princeton. Other members include Jeannie Suk Gersen of Harvard Law School, Jay Parini of Middlebury College, and Claire Potter of The New School. A full membership list is available here. While membership is currently by invitation only, the AFA plans to open membership to all faculty at U.S. colleges and universities in the future.
“The AFA will provide strength in numbers for its members,” said AFA member Shivaji Sondhi of the Princeton Department of Physics. “As membership continues to expand, administrators will have to think twice before baselessly censuring or terminating an employee.”
The AFA has established a Legal Advisory Council of distinguished lawyers (see them here) who will vet cases to determine whether legal rights have been violated. The Advisory Council will make recommendations to the AFA’s Academic Committee, which will make the final determination on whether to provide public financial support.
AFA Legal Advisory Council member Lisa Blatt, an attorney who has argued 40 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, said, “Academic freedom should be synonymous with higher education. Celebration of diversity of thought in academia would go a long way toward reducing polarization in society and perceived elitism in American colleges. If we can’t celebrate it, I guess we have to litigate it.”
Members of the press are invited to attend a panel discussion and media briefing on the Academic Freedom Alliance taking place via Zoom on Thursday March 11 at 3:00pm EST. Please register to attend here.
- Follow the AFA on Twitter and Facebook
- Learn more on the AFA’s official website, AcademicFreedom.org.